Riparian land poses a lower fire threat to a landholder’s property, including to crops, livestock and built assets (such as houses and farm buildings), than the threat posed by other parts of the landscape.

Any significant patch of vegetation situated close to assets may pose a fire threat. Under low-to-moderate fire danger conditions, however, well-managed riparian vegetation is less likely than pasture or crops to contribute to the spread of fire across a property or the wider landscape.

This is largely because:

  • Fire will spread more quickly in cured grass or crops compared with forest (provided there is only limited spotting);
  • Trees generally reduce wind speed, and the rate and intensity of fire; and
  • Riparian land occupies a relatively small proportion of the broader landscape.

Fire is also much less likely to start in riparian land than other parts of the landscape, typically because it is not as prone to lightning strikes, is remote from access for arsonists, has fuel too moist to burn and is sheltered from the wind and sun.Fire-blackened tree stump in foreground

Photo, above: fire spread in the moister vegetated riparian area was limited compared to the adjacent pasture. Coliban River, Redesdale. Photo taken after the February 2009 fires. Photo courtesy North Central CMA.

Built assets would typically be under greater threat from cured pasture and nearby unmanaged windbreaks than from riparian land, which is often further away from farm assets. In addition, riparian land does not typically act as a ‘wick’ or ‘fuse’. Fires will burn most rapidly in the direction of the wind.

Extreme fire events, such as the February 2009 bushfires in Victoria, are rare. In such conditions of protracted drought and extreme fire weather all vegetation can burn.

In these situations, riparian land will have less influence on fire spread and impacts than the landscape level grass and forest fuels.

Fire management and planning need to be considered in riparian management activities including:

  • Long-term weed management;
  • Setbacks from the riparian land to built assets (such as houses and sheds); and
  • The establishment of access points at strategic locations within the riparian land for fire suppression agencies, particularly to access reliable watering supplies for firefighting tankers.

Ongoing management of riparian land from a fire management perspective is the responsibility of landholders on both private land and licensed Crown frontage.

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Page last updated: 11/08/22